Watch collectors share advice on choosing timepieces: 'Buy something you like looking at'

Collectors in the UAE speak out about what draws them to a timepiece

A yellow gold diamond encrusted limited edition Rolex Daytona watch sits on display at Nikolas Michael pawnbrokers in London, U.K., on Wednesday Sept. 23, 2009. Nikolas Michael pawnbrokers is located in the financial district of London. Photographer: Paul Hackett/Bloomberg

When it comes to purchasing – or investing in – an accessory, few present as many complications as a watch.

A lot of that has to do with the sheer volume of options available to the average connoisseur: watches now come with a variety of functions, some are valued for their technology, others for their vintage appeal.

Also, there’s everything from sleek, dainty varieties to gilded, gemstone-encrusted versions.

Dubai resident Nitish Verma, an avid watch collector, says, traditionally, the brand name has been one of the biggest draws when it comes to owning a statement timepiece. “Brand value is a guiding factor in this region. If people have, say Dh40,000 ($10,891) to drop on a watch, they may not always care what it looks like, but would rather go for a watch brand that will be noticed by others.”

Verma is aware that he's the exception, in that he only picks up pieces that "speak to him", and wears every watch in his collection. He has been investing in timepieces for about six years now, with 32 to his name. These include a few Rolexes, a Panerai and an Omega Speedmaster, but also models from G Shock, Titan, Timex and Seiko. He is also drawn to divers' watches.

Watch collector Nitish Verma, wearing a G Shock GX56BB

“It’s all about aesthetics for me. I don’t care too much about how the timepiece appears to other people. As long as it looks good to me, I consider that it’s made for me,” Verma says.

He lists Titan, an Indian watchmaker that sells timepieces in the Dh250 to Dh1,500 range, as a case in point. "Personally, I think Titan is really cool. I wouldn't go all out and buy 15 watches from the brand, but I appreciate the fact that it sticks to its roots, and creates pieces for the masses. I also have an affinity to it because I'm an Indian."

Titan is an interesting example; since its 1984 launch, the brand has amassed a loyal following, with its mass-­market but well-designed timepieces being passed down generations.

Titan has amassed a loyal following in the past three decades.

Aditya Kejriwal, business head of international operations at Titan, says, in his experience, while brand name does play a big role, it's the look that ultimately seals the deal. "You have to have a good product, which ticks the boxes on the design aspect, especially if you're in the accessory space – and the brand name gets built as a result."

The aesthetic appeal may well be crucial right now, given the volatile state of the luxury watch market, as high-end timepieces compete with smart watches.

"Traditionally, technology wasn't very important. It was about the basics – water resistance, lasting long, keeping the time – basic deliverables. But, of late, it has changed completely and no one really knows where it is going," Kejriwal says. "But in a few years' time, technology will become democratised once more, and then it will just come straight back to the design."

Aditya Kejriwal shows off a Titan watch. Courtesy Titan

And yet, there's no denying the investment factor. Limited-edition watches can enable collectors to turn a tidy profit in the long run. Property developer Arjun Gupta says: "I once bought a limited-edition Patek Philippe for $125,000 and later had people begging me to sell it at $800,000. An FP Journe piece, which I bought when the watch brand was still up and coming, has more than doubled in value."

Based on this, Gupta's advice to budding collectors is to look to brands that are yet to be discovered. "Look for quality that is not hyped. The Rolexes and Pateks are better if you want something to show off to friends. But even if you buy under-appreciated brands, you could find quality.

“Five to 10 years ago, the watch market was all about collectibles. These days, it’s like a share market.”

Patek

At the end of the day, both the collectors we spoke to concur that if you’re buying a timepiece, make sure it’s something you love. “Buy something that you like looking at,” says Verma.

“We live in a world where Instagram is dictating what people should buy and that’s a big no-no in my book. If you’re dropping money, it needs to ultimately be for a watch that you care about and you enjoy wearing.”